SXSW:  As the clock is ticking down to the 2023 edition, some top recommendations
Credit: Personal Trainer

SXSW: As the clock is ticking down to the 2023 edition, some top recommendations

The overwhelming quantity of artists performing at SXSW is simply staggering. Attempting to navigate the sheer volume of music on show can lead to FOMO but if attending just pick out some must sees and be prepared to experiment on artists you think you’ll enjoy. With SXSW just one week away, we take a look at some highlights.

Balimaya Project (England)
Led by composer/arranger and leading UK-based Djembe player, Yahael Camara Onono and featuring members of bands including Kokoroko and Seed Ensemble, Balimaya Project intently synthesize and bridge London’s bustling jazz circuit with traditional repertoire and folklore of the Mandé peoples of West Africa, and in turn connect the music’s contemporary and ancestral forbearers. The word Baraka is used in Maninka and many other West African languages. It is a loan word from the Islamic principle of spiritual increment. People and concepts can be imbued with Baraka and in turn, transmit favour and affect the lives of those they touch. Driving collective polyrhythms, blazing frontline horns and virtuosic kora stylings collide to produce utter joy. I just hope the stage is big enough to hold all the band members!

Been Stellar (USA)
New York based Been Stellar made a ton of new fans when they toured the UK and Ireland last summer. On the back of outstanding performances at The Great Escape festival they completed a number of headline dates. Their self-titled debut EP took its influence from New York, both the light and the dark. Hard to describe, their music stays with you long after the songs have finished. The opening lyrics of ‘Kids 1995’ still sit with me:
“I watched the movie “Kids”
And then had a dream about you and me”

I suspect the grungy yet atmospheric Been Stellar will be a hot ticket in Austin this year – quite right.

The Lounge Society (England)
Speedy Wunderground signed The Lounge Society very early in their career with most of the band members just 17 year old at the time. The quartet from Hebden Bridge released their debut album Tired of Liberty last summer, providing the evidence that Speedy Wunderground made the right call. From the blistering pace of ‘Beneath the Screen’ and ‘It’s Just a Ride‘ to quieter ‘North Is Your Heart‘ and ‘Upheaval‘ The Lounge Society are infused with funk punk. Hearing “What will the US do?” from their debut single ‘Generation Game’ will surely be a spine-tingling moment in Austin.

McKinley Dixon (USA)
Chicago based rapper McKinley Dixon was named as one of The Guardian’s music most promising newcomers for 2023. He quotes late author Toni Morrison as the greatest rapper of all time. McKinley address the hope, trauma and brutality faced by Black Americans with vulnerability and defiance. He has an album for release in 2023 via City Slang and if new single ‘Tyler, Forever’ is any indication will see him take a huge step forward. Symphonic horns and gritty vocals seamlessly blend to create a track that is as catchy as it is emotional. McKinley expands on the inspiration behind the track:

“‘Tyler, Forever’ is a track that is a celebration of the life of one of my close friends, and for all those we lost too soon. A triumphant return for the memories we have of people we love. As the song progresses, it becomes a reflective track for myself, as I dive into the reasons behind why I talk about such complex feelings in this song. By the end, you have a scattered collection of thoughts, where the lyrics mimic the rushing pace of the instrumental.”

Personal Trainer (Netherlands)
Personal Trainer are another band currently gathering hoards of fans in the UK and Europe. Their debut album Big Love Blanket is an utter delight. Personal Trainer are the brainchild of Willem Smit, the band’s front man and a multi-instrumentalist and they began as an attempt to bottle the fervent energy of Amsterdam’s indie scene and to allow for something entirely unpredictable on stage and in the studio – an ever-shifting line-up of friends and peers playing together with only one rule: there are no rules. Singles ‘Key of Ego’ ‘Rug Duster‘ and ‘The Lazer‘ provide the perfect examples of Personal Trainers ethos. Live they are great fun, having the best time performing their music and hence ensuring the audience will leave the gig with a huge smile and a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Thus Love (USA)
I have one thing to say about Thus Love, listen to ‘Repetitioner’. Sometimes a song comes along that simply stops you in your tracks. The trio have created an extraordinary soundscape. Thus Love’s debut album Memorial was released in October 2022. During lockdown the three members of the band lived together in the same apartment and the seeds of their music were sown. If you see me at their gig I may just have something in my eye when they play ‘Repetitioner‘.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.